What does Acts 21:27 mean?
ESV: When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,
NIV: When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,
NASB: When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him,
CSB: When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd, and seized him,
NLT: The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him,
KJV: And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
NKJV: Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,
Verse Commentary:
During Paul's third missionary journey, he traveled through Galatia, the province in central modern-day Turkey. He eventually settled in Ephesus, in the province of Asia in western Turkey. He spent three years in Ephesus, establishing and building up a church. When a protest caused by disgruntled shrine craftsmen turned into a riot, Paul left and toured the churches he had established previously in Macedonia and Greece (Acts 19—20).

When he returned to Jerusalem, representatives from these churches came along to bring the money they had collected for the church in Jerusalem (Acts 20:4; Romans 15:26). Paul accompanied the men to James and the elders to report on his work. The elders were happy that Paul had seen such success among the Gentiles. Unfortunately, they were also concerned about rumors that he had abandoned the Mosaic law and taught other Jewish Christians to do the same. To prove his continued Jewishness, Paul agreed to help four men complete their vow.

The text doesn't indicate what type of vow is meant, but it's most likely a Nazirite vow. This is a voluntary oath, taken by men and women, to dedicate one's life to God for a period. That the rite takes seven days leads some to believe that the vow had been interrupted unexpectedly, most likely because the men encountered a corpse. This would mean they needed to finish the eight-day ceremony that would cleanse them and reset the timeframe. That the Bible says it would take seven days and Luke says eight could be due to a difference in how Jews and Greeks measure days.

However, this may be the completion of the vow. The elders ask Paul to cover the men's expenses; if this is a vow reset, the sacrifice is two turtledoves or two pigeons for each man—a negligible amount. If the men are completing the vow, Paul will have to provide eight lambs, four rams, bread, oil, grain, and wine. This seems a more likely demonstration of Paul's faithfulness to the Law (Numbers 6:1–21).

One of the men accompanying Paul is Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus. Sometime during the week, Jews from Asia see Paul with Trophimus in the city. When they later see Paul at the temple, they erroneously conclude Paul has brought the Gentile into the temple. This not only breaks the Mosaic law, but it also defiles the temple. Defiling or insulting an "approved" religion also breaks Roman law. The elders of the church had wanted Paul to fulfill the men's requirements to prove he is a faithful Jew; he doesn't even get the chance. Paul's accusers inflame the crowd who attempts to beat him to death. Paul is only rescued when the Roman tribune arrests him (Acts 21:28–36).
Verse Context:
Acts 21:27–36 explains why Paul's public ministry takes a five-year hiatus. He has arrived in Jerusalem only to hear a rumor that he abandoned the Mosaic law. Seeking to prove otherwise, he is then slandered with a rumor that he brought a Gentile into the temple. Before the mob can kill him, the Roman tribune takes him into custody. He will face two years house arrest in Caesarea Maritima and two in Rome, broken up by a dangerous sea voyage that ends in a shipwreck. But he will also be able to share Jesus' story with audiences he never dreamed of. These include a king and Caesar's own household.
Chapter Summary:
In Acts 21, Paul returns to Judea from his third missionary journey and promptly gets arrested. He begins by visiting Philip in Caesarea Maritima. Church elders in Jerusalem ask Paul to help men fulfill a Nazirite vow, to dispel rumors he has apostatized his Jewishness. While doing so, Ephesian Jews accuse Paul of bringing one of his Gentile Ephesian companions into the temple. The Roman military tribune keeps the enraged crowd from tearing Paul limb from limb by arresting him.
Chapter Context:
Acts 21 fulfills the fears of many of Paul's friends. Throughout the last part of his third missionary journey the Holy Spirit has been telling him he will be arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 20:23–25). When Paul reacts to dire personal prophecy, the Jesus-followers in Caesarea Maritima try to stop him from going on (Acts 21:8–14). Through a complicated trail of rumors, lies, and wrong assumptions, things go according to the Holy Spirit's foreknowledge and Roman soldiers arrest Paul. He will face the next 5 years in custody in Caesarea and Rome, but he will spread Jesus' story the entire time (Acts 22—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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